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Blankiet's 'Bordeaux Medoc-blend' of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. This wine is sheer power in a silk glove.
Paradise Hills Vineyard is located on the western foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains above Yountville in the cooler part of the Napa Valley. Grapes planted in this area take longer to mature on the vine allowing for riper tannins, darker pigmentation and deeply perfumed fruit. The vineyards are east and southeast facing, ideal for maximizing photosynthesis with intense morning sun and natural protection from the hot afternoon rays.
Heat summation charts Paradise Hills Vineyard temperatures from 3000 to 3500 degree – day per season for the past 10 years. The climate is a bit warmer than Bordeaux but the summer days are sunny and dry with cool nights. Temperatures swing 50 degrees in a 24-hour period, allowing full phenolic ripening of the grapes while maintaining a fresh acidity. Paradise Hills is cooled by constant breezes flowing from the cold waters of the San Pablo Bay. The grape berries tend to develop a thicker skin that protects them from dehydration.
Paradise Hills displays an almost textbook assortment of different soil conditions that comprise ancient Pacific seabed formations of greenstone, sandstone, limestone, shale, white volcanic tuffs and pyroclastic lava flows.
Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on the porous volcanic soils that produce wines with concentrated tannins and complex flavours. Cabernet Franc is planted on an east facing slope of clay loam over fractured rocks at the top of the canyon. Natural protection from the hot afternoon sun allows the maturation of the grapes to be extended ten days later than valley floor or west facing vineyards. Planted on the steepest East facing slopes at the end of the canyon, our Petit Verdot grapes are the last to be harvested from the Paradise Hills vineyard. Merlot is planted on a deep band of brown alluvial clay eroded from the mountain range. The steep slopes are facing North – North East and wrap around the South side of the canyon.
Paradise Hills Vineyard is farmed organically and great care is given to maintain soil balance. Nutrients taken from the land during the growing season are replaced using green manure. A mix of winter grasses and legumes such as clover, winter rye, sorghum and sweet peas, are seeded between rows. When Spring comes, the grasses are mowed down and spaded back into the soil.
Grape vines regenerate from seeds and/or from vegetative offshoots of the canes. Seed reproduction is a long and complicated pathway, therefore growers use cuttings to create new vines. If vines are permitted to expand their energy on vegetative growth they will do so at the expense of ripening fruit.
Coaxing grapevines and their relentless propensity on growing canes and leaves instead of fruit requires an enormous amount of labor. That is why vineyards planted in nutrition-depleted and well-drained hillsides are naturally better suited in producing small crops of intensely flavoured berries.
To further enhance wine concentration and complexity, the number of clusters a vine is allowed to ripen is restricted. During the growing season buds, flowers, leaves and clusters are carefully thinned out, allowing each vine to produce a metered amount of fruit in accordance to its age, terroir and specific weather conditions of the year.
Water needs are carefully monitored by checking the amount of moisture in the leaves to prevent the vines from shutting down. Diminishing sunlight by mid-summer tells the vines the end of the season is in sight and all their energy is to be spent in ripening the berries.
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar (April 2015) by Stephen Tanzer – 97+ points
84% Cabernet Sauvignon): Healthy, bright ruby-red. Multidimensional nose offers scents of blackcurrant, blackberry, brown spices and graphite minerality accented by herbs and pepper. At once plush and sharply focused, showing lovely reserve and energy to its dark fruit, mineral and soil flavors. I find this to be downright Pauillac-like. Finishes with strong but fine-grained late-arriving tannins and outstanding slowly building length. A great Cabernet- based wine that’s already remarkably complex and elegant but has a glorious future ahead of it. As Blankiet did not deleaf the vines, the fruit was not burned by the heat spikes in late August and September in this essentially cool year. I tasted this magnum four days later and it was even better. One of the finest and most complete California Cabernets I’ve tasted in recent years.
Wine Advocate # 198 (Dec. 2011) by Antonio Galloni – 95-97+ points
The 2010 Proprietary Red Paradise Hills Vineyard graces the palate with expressive dark red fruit supported by polished tannins. The 2010 is a steely, cool wine that should blossom beautifully with time in bottle. Today, it is simply dazzling. The blend is 84.1% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.4% Merlot, 1.1% Cabernet Franc and 0.4% Petit Verdot. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2030. (Not yet released) Claude and Katherine Blankiet have refined their approach over the last few years. Under the direction of Denis Malbec, the vines are now being farmed with the goal of keeping a more robust canopy in an effort to place less stress on the vines than has been the case in the recent past. In the cellar, Malbec is focusing on longer macerations and gentler extractions. He is also aging the component wines separately for a longer period of time, as opposed to Michel Rolland’s approach, which was to create the blends earlier. It will be fascinating to see what develops here. These hillside vineyards are some of the most pristine in the Valley. Readers who want to learn more about Blankiet Estate may want to take a look at my video interview with Claude Blankiet and Denis Malbec on www.erobertparker.com
Drink 2015 – 2030
Wine Advocate # 204 (Dec. 2012) by Antonio Galloni – 98+ points
The 2010 Proprietary Red Paradise Hills Vineyard is stunningly beautiful. At once rich yet weightless, the 2010 covers every inch of the palate with seemingly endless layers of aromas and flavors. The 2010 is endowed with exceptional elegance and finesse. Hints of graphite and pencil shavings add intrigue and a cool sense of minerality on the finish. Not an obvious wine, the 2010 will need several years at a minimum to reveal its pure pedigree, but it is a fabulous wine to treasure between the ages of ten and twenty-plus. The blend is 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and a splash of Petit Verdot.
Anticipated maturity: 2020-2030.
Claude and Katherine Blankiet have spared no expense in their goal to make world-class wines, and it shows in these magnificent new releases. One of the biggest changes at Blankiet over the last few years has been the creation of a second wine, Prince of Hearts, first released with the 2008 vintage. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the creation of a second label is one of the main reasons quality has been so exceptional here, especially in the last few years, none of which has been easy. Prince of Hearts, with its production between 600-1,000 cases, is all or mostly juice that used to end up in the Rive Droite and Proprietary Red. Readers who want to learn more about Blankiet might like to take a look at my videos of the 2011 and 2012 harvests.
Drink 2020 – 2030